The Cost of Money and The Blessing of Less

 

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Photo Cred: Katie Harp

Everything comes at a price they say. The water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the education we get, the entertainment we buy, the technology we use, who we put ourselves around because of how we spend our money. And the more money we have, the more we can eat, watch, consume, buy, waste…

I’m a lucky one. And to be honest it doesn’t matter what living conditions you had in the United States, if you were born and raised in the USA you are a lucky one too. With the highest GDP in the world, the US is one of the strongest leaders in technology, business, investment, and “getting rich” in the world. And think about the 1,000s of people trying to enter the US right now. No. It isn’t perfect. But, yes, if you grew up there your life was ‘better’ than most of the rest of the world and this is how I know:

I moved to Spain a few months ago now and started classes at an international business school in Madrid. Here, I’ve met people from all over the world, and it has been wonderful. But while in school, I’ve realized that though everyone comes from different places, I’m meeting a certain “type” and “class” of people from all over the world. The wealthy 1%. Columbians, Indians, Venezuelans, Spaniards, Australians, Scandinavians, South Africans, and people from so many other countries across the world, I’m meeting the type and class of people who can afford a top-notch master’s program in Europe and all of the costs that come with it.

And that’s how I know that coming from a middle class family in the States, the USA is rich.

When I hear on Facebook people in the US complaining about their quality of life I ask why? Because you have freedom to choose a profession? Because you GET to go to school, and work without force, and have freedom to worship whatever deity you so choose? Because you get to buy a new TV and phone every year? And can afford Netflix, internet, data plans, and food? Because you have a place to live that you can afford, even if you don’t like the price?

You see, it’s EASY to want more. It’s easy to play the “if only” game and then feel sorry for ourselves. I know this because I just caught myself doing it a few weeks ago.

“If only I earned more…” “If only the government didn’t take so much tax out…” “If only my car insurance didn’t cost so much…” “If only I had more money so I could…” What? So, you could… what? Truly what would more get you?

Probably a lot. More money could get you a lot more. But a lot more of what?

Where are you putting your money? What are you spending your time doing because of your money? Investing? Giving? Entertainment? A new couch, because the old one is dated? A bigger house because each kid deserves their own room? Do you ever just buy someone a little gift at work, like a cup of coffee or lunch just because? Do you ever say, no don’t worry about Venmo-ing me this time, I know you’re going through stuff?

The reason I ask these questions is because of my current Spain situation. I don’t have “extra” I have enough.

I have enough for rent, for groceries on a budget, minutes for my phone, and enough to take a few trips while I am in Spain to other countries… I believe that to not take extra trips would be a waste while I am on this side of the pond.

But here is the thing, a few weeks ago I was PISSED. I was jealous of people around me who are planning weekend trips every weekend, shopping for fun, and can afford better apartments closer to the school. I was angry at my tight, gotta watch every penny budget. Until I realized something.

My tight, gotta watch every penny budget is actually freeing. It has freed up my time and energy to now focus and be choosy with my life.

I deleted Netflix because that is an extra that I can’t afford right now, but now, my time is more free and I’m not wrapped spending HOURS watching shows or movies each week. I deleted Spotify for the same reason, and now at the gym I’m not engrossed in my own music, but I listen to little conversations in Spanish around me. I can’t afford to jet off every long weekend like most students around me at school can do, so that means I get to know Madrid better and I get to be super picky about my “special” trips this year while I’m in Europe. And lastly, I don’t spend my time shopping the 100s of beautiful shoe and clothing stores here (when I already have way too many shoes and clothes in the USA). THANK GOD I can’t afford more on that end, I don’t have the space for it in my life back home!

I’m honing in on what actually makes me happy, what is actually important to me and ultimately God, as far as money, how I spend my time due to money, and who I let influence me due to where I spend my money. (Right now, my money is being spent and invested into my education and because of that I’m letting a school and master degree students from around the world influence me).

Money comes at a cost. Not for the money itself, but for what you do with the money, and the people you let influence your life because of money.

Money is good. And I want more of it, someday soon. But right now, I’m experiencing the blessing of having less.

Think about your own money habits, is there anything you can change, get rid of, or do that would free up your time in a new way or bless others by?

Can you jot down any good uses for and how you can be more purposeful with your time and money?

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Bottomless Wallet

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PC: Juliandra Durkin

It’s two forty-five AM here in Madrid and though my eyes are burning a little in front of my laptop, and I have too much to do tomorrow to be tired, I have to admit I did not want to stop with my latest project and decided to post right away…. Even though I probably should wait because I need to submit this work in a month for my class portfolio.

“Bottomless Wallet” is a photo story of the consumerist culture we live in; inspired by the incessant shopping I’ve observed in Madrid. A two part photo series, I was able to capture part one today in the city with Bhavna who made modeling and styling the over the top consumerist appeal look easy.

These are just a few of the photos of part one, Bhavna taking in her phone and Starbucks, not a care in the world for anyone else. She did an amazing job and I am super excited for the direction of this project!

Even to the small things like a Christmas themed Starbucks cups, which is a reminder that we are in a ‘season of giving,’ we as a society have a tendency to ignore and look past people around us.

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PC: Juliandra Durkin

This season, give a little extra to people in need around you, buy someone else a coffee, put down your phones, look past (or better yet learn from) political differences for a second, don’t obsess about your hair or clothes so much, and find joy in the people around you more than the “stuff”– clothes, cars, football games, likes on social media, or whatever else you find yourself consumed with… More to come for Bottomless Wallet, and thank you again to Bhavna who I got to work with today!

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PC: Juliandra Durkin

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PC: Juliandra Durkin.

PS. I have got to learn how to watermark.

PPS. I don’t think that really matters as I’ll be uploading to Unsplash and all of those photos are free anyway!

Baby Steps in a Masters Program

Deep down, and not so deep down, I’m super nerdy. From Kindergarten when I first learned to write, spelling out words and forming sentences like “The cat played with the ball” I’ve loved school. I loved picking up a pencil, knowing I was doing something important that my parents and teachers would be proud of me for. That I was learning to be a part of society in a timeless way. I remember crying over things like multiplication tables in 5th grade and Chemistry in 10th grade, but even those subjects that didn’t come naturally, I was always proud of myself after a test that I somehow passed.

Though my career plans don’t require furthered education—to be honest they don’t require any education save for a vision that you have to convince others is great to get on board with for funding and movie making—I knew upon graduating college I wanted to go back to school “someday” after working a few years in the industry.

That “someday” is now and though I initially wanted to get my MBA, I found myself applying to a marketing program at a business school in Spain for a masters in Digital and Visual Media. A mix of creative, hands-on work and more theory-based classes such as Strategic Thinking and Media Ethics, this program offers a lot in terms of education, a sabbatical year abroad, and refreshment from intensive production work.

Here are a few items I’ve created for my Graphic Design class. Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator— as I work through assignments, I’m pretty proud of what I’m creating on these new (to me) software programs!

If I don’t share my work, it’ll just get digitally dusty sitting in some file somewhere, and even if what I’m posting seems basic to true experts, like a kindergartner learning to write “cat” I’m learning digital content creation in a new way and am excited about the baby steps I’m taking in my masters program.

Business Card Mock Up

Song - Tale as Old as Time - Project

Coachella Poster Design

Where’s the Corkscrew — I’m Thirsty

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PC: Justin Aikin

The last post I wrote was called “Consistency” dated July of 2017. Fifteen months ago. Wow. I really lost touch with my writing this last year, but I’m baaaack!

And since I’m back I’ll fill you in on a few things. First, I’m living in Madrid, Spain for the next year studying for a Masters in Digital and Visual Media. I worked in video production for the last 3 years, but I decided to chase some dreams and go get a Master’s, while learning marketing for business with a media twist. And since I’m in Spain, I’d like to debut my first time writing in over a year on a pretty important subject here in Spain… drinking.

Drinking here is kind of like a hobby, but a necessary hobby. Like, for example, triathlons for me are a hobby. I’m not a professional, but no matter how popular or not the race is, I can’t live without training for my next Tri. It’s a hobby where I push myself on the daily to train, in and out of season. I need long rides on my bike, timed swims in the pool, and runs where the only thing that matters is my increased mileage. A necessary hobby.

Which brings me back to wine in Spain. Wine, my friends, is a deep rich drink that dates back 1000’s of years to Bible times. Which means, it’s not going anywhere. It’s a necessary hobby for people in Spain and is a unifier of people around the entire planet.

First, it physically brings people together. The following conversation I’ve had with friends around the globe since I first started drinking.

“Hey! We said we were going to hangout tonight, are you still down?”

“Yeah! What do you want to do?”

“Well it’s snowing out…” Or, “It’s raining out…” Or, “I’m trying to save some money and don’t really want to eat at a restaurant…” Or, “I have to be up early tomorrow for work…”

You know the only proper response to these statements is, “Oh, well why don’t we just grab a drink, better yet, just come to my place, I have a bottle of wine we can open!”

Wine is good, but I didn’t know it till I started drinking it at age 20 when I studied abroad in Spain the first wine, I mean time. And wine in Spain is so easy to get addicted to. Doesn’t matter how cheap the bottle is, all alcohol is cheap in Spain, but it is always sweet, rich, and cheap. Did I say that already?

Second, drinking brings people together physically, but it also turns us into story tellers.

“You have to try my drink!”

“Oh, that’s so good! What’s in it?”

“Well this one time I was staying at a hostel in Portugal and the hostel worker made Sangria for us that had muddled mint at the bottom. Saw the same thing on the menu here and wondered if it would be the same. The owner at the hostel let me help him make it, such fun memories.”

“What! When did you go to Portugal? Sounds like so much fun!”

All of a sudden, I’m telling a story just because of a silly, over priced drink that reminded me of a time I traveled, and wanted to share said drink with my friend. Honestly, for better or for worse, I owe my good friendships to nights out, or in, opening up to each other talking about fun, difficult, or somber life situations around a bottle or glass.

Third, and maybe the least obvious and the most “uh-oh, is she okay?” is that drinking solo is kind of the best way to drink. Rainy night in with a glass of wine, or escaping to the mountains with a view beer in hand, or day drinking while cleaning… I don’t have to be out and about or with surrounded by friends to enjoy life. Sometimes a casual drink alone allows the mind to wander and be inspired in a new way.

And that is what prompted this blog post. All because of a glass of wine by myself in my little apartment in Spain and I started thinking, and my thoughts grew, and I decided to pull out my laptop and write again. Like Triathlons, and my interest in the influence of wine on culture and relationships, writing is a necessary hobby in my life and something I’ve put off for too long claiming to not have time or anything interesting to say. Which is just not true.

SO, pour yourself a drink, and come hangout with me through my blog as I process all that Spain has to offer this year second time around!

Consistency

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PC: Marion Michele

Consistency.

I’ve been meaning to write about this theme in my life since March, but I’ve been putting it off. Because to write about it is to claim it and to claim it is to live by it, and I haven’t been feeling strong enough to live consistently in most things.

I say I want to lose weight and a week later I’m binge eating on chips and margaritas. I say I want to read a book or two and except for the GRE haven’t picked up a book in months. I say I want to raise money for human trafficking victims and I’m too scared to keep asking the people who said they would donate.

Consistent in my work. Consistent in my friendships. Consistent in my training for triathlon this summer. Consistent with my relationship with God- I feel like I’ve been a roller coaster more than anything… Nothing consistent in my actions or attitude except this nagging thought that I have to get back on track to what is important and STAY TRUE to that course.

So I’m pushing and pulling. Trying to grasp at any semblance of order in my career, health, and attitude with changes in relationships, and especially with God.

Consistency is what I noticed brought me from running 11:00 min miles in snowy February, to 9:45 min miles in rainy April, to 8:50 min miles in humid June.

Consistency in prayer is what I know makes my emotional imbalance and fear sober and pure minded again.

Consistency in showing up at work, and doing the best that I can any given day is what I know got me a 3rd promotion in less than 2 years as a Sports Producer.

Consistency is what is getting me through relearning Math for the GRE that I haven’t thought about since 10th grade…

Consistency is key. It is key to success. It is key for getting through each day. It is key for proving I am capable, even when I “don’t feel like it.” And believe me, I don’t most days. But by remaining consistent to show up during the hard times, I know I’m succeeding, even if I don’t see the fruit right away.

I know it works. The reality is, though the process has been slow, I have seen the fruit of remaining consistent to the important things, letting go of that which distracts from my goals.

SO by FINALLY writing this blog post, I am claiming this word publicly to make it a habit and pattern in my actions and ultimately a part of my lifestyle in all areas of my life right now, not just when it is convenient.

Consistency to keep putting one foot in front of the other for this triathlon on days and nights I don’t want to work out, when I say the wrong thing in meetings, or when I want to go out with friends and instead know I should study.

In the end, I think that is what makes the fruit so beautiful. It is not that these goals are easy, or that I’ve done a good job at keeping them a priority- but that I can in action, word, and deed go back to remaining faithful and true to the important things.

The road is long, but I will reach the end by choosing to move forward. Consistently.